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The Penultimate CuriosityHow Science Swims in the Slipstream of Ultimate Questions$
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Roger Wagner and Andrew Briggs

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198747956

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198747956.001.0001

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Mathematical Theologies

Mathematical Theologies

(p.273) Chapter Thirty-Three Mathematical Theologies
The Penultimate Curiosity

Roger Wagner

Andrew Briggs

Oxford University Press

Following the death of Queen Anne in August 1714, her nearest protestant relative George Ludwig, the Prince Elector of Hanover, travelled to England and was crowned in Westminster Abbey that October. A year after the coronation, his daughter-in-law Caroline received a letter from Leibniz about what he considered to be the decay of natural religion in England. Caroline relayed the contents of the letter to Dr Samuel Clarke, the Rector of St James Westminster. An exchange of papers was then conducted through the Princess, which continued until Leibniz’s death in 1716. This chapter considers these exchanges. It discusses the defences that natural theology offered against atheism and infidelity, as well as the work of Blaise Pascal. It argues that Leibniz’s metaphysical sense of divine order and Newton’s empirical insistence on God’s freedom to do what he chose were both critical elements in driving discovery forward.

Keywords:   Princess Caroline, Gottfried Leibniz, religion, Samuel Clarke, science, natural theology, Blaise Pascal, Sir Isaac Newton

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